Monday, May 23, 2016

2015-2016 School year....the year of the OVERCOMERS

Seems like every year when May hits me "Where has this school year gone?" Weren't we JUST buying the school clothes, chatting excitedly about class schedules, making plans for road trips to sports? When did I blink and it disappear?

Why even wonder...because the end of the school year, marks one year closer to that time when I will look and realize "I am an empty nester." fact, Tyler - MY BABY - will start High School in the fall! Say WHAT?

As I look back at the school year of 2015-2016...all I can say is growth through pain. In so many ways, that is what has summed up this school year for our family. By far, it has been one of the most difficult school years for us...what started out as a year of exciting new adventures, turned into some serious pain filled moments, tears, disappointment, and wonder... It wasn't ALL hard...definitely sprinkled in were moments of joy - like making the JV softball team and being a starter, scoring a 1 on a UIL solo, and making progress in reading.

Let me just share with you some HARD things that have happened in our family...the reason is I want you to see that despite being a "ministry" family, life isn't all roses for us. Nope. Not a bit. We are a real family just like anyone else - the only thing that makes a difference - JESUS!

1.) Our oldest went to college in the fall. We were excited, she was excited, it was EXCITING! We loaded her up, we decorated the dorm room, we had some high hindsight, maybe TOO high. She struggled. She experienced some growth pains. She wanted to give in and give up. She pressed on through the first semester. It didn't look exciting any more. It wasn't exciting. It was HARD. Second semester would bring more pain, more hardship, and the need to step away and retreat for a time...It was HARD.

2.) Our second one started his Junior year with high hopes. Looking to begin a new sport. Getting a glimpse of the end.... He was excited. We were excited. It was EXCITING! He struggled. He faltered. He fell. The grades plummeted to an all time low. We lectured. We encouraged. We begged. We cried. it was HARD. Second semester would bring the chance to begin fresh with a brand new slate....It wasn't exciting. It wasn't glamorous. It looked bleak. The finish line was no longer in sight. It was HARD.

3.) My mom started off with some great medical reports in early fall. Looked like victory over cancer was on the horizon. She had some challenges, but surely they would be overcome. By wasn't great any more. It looked bleak. It wasn't looking very victorious. Second got HARD. It went downhill. It wasn't looking good any longer. It was painful. It hurt. It was HARD.

These are just the big highlights of the HARD of this school year. There were others...medical issues with Joel's Dad, ministry struggles, hardships with friends close to us.

HOWEVER....that is NOT THE END OF THE STORY. We chose not to remain in the HARD. We chose to look to the ONE WHO HAS OVERCOME THE HARD - JESUS, the NAME ABOVE ALL NAMES.

1.) Our oldest has overcome some serious amount of depression. She is getting stronger every single day. Yes - she still has some growth to go through but she is on the way! God has BIG plans for her and she is OVERCOMING through HIM!

2.) Our second one has learned the reality of choices have consequences. He is working toward recovering some grades and getting a brand new fresh start. He is OVERCOMING through HIM!

3.) My mom...she won the ULTIMATE VICTORY of healing...she's at the throne of the KING OF KINGS! It's still hard for me at times. It's still painful A LOT OF TIMES and BUT GREATER IS HE WHO IS IN ME!!! I am healing. I am growing, I am going to be VICTORIOUS and overcome through HIM!

Here's my point....Life IS HARD. It isn't all roses. It doesn't always work out the way WE want it to work out. It has times of PAIN, times of TEARS, times of  DISAPPOINTMENT....but we don't have to let that be the end of our story. That doesn't have to be what sums up our life! Through Christ...we can REJOICE and be called....

John 16:33 states:
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Light Comes's time to speak out

Reading James 1 this morning and hit over the head, toes stepped on, light bulb pops on...
You see, for the past 3 years our family has dealt with a "trial" of sorts, or a thorn in our side. We, and I say we because it has been multiple members of our family attacked, have been the recipients of anonymous letters arriving on average every 2 months that have been down right mean, hateful, full of lies, hurtful. Although we haven't read them all, in fact many have just gone straight to file 13, we have read some and believe me they were not oozing with praise, encouragement or uplifting words...they were literally HATE mail.
Now, before you get all defensive and on the war path, STOP. I have BEEN down that fact the majority of the past 3 years in regards to these letters and the person that we are fairly certain sent them, I have been negative about, ready to tell them a piece of my mind, etc. I have heard every recommendation regarding how to handle them, as I have shared this with a select few, from reading them out loud in church, to posting them on Facebook, to not reading them and throwing them away, and more. I have had COUNTLESS conversations in my head with the author and let me tell you....they have never heard such a lecture!!!
However, my Proverbs 31 devotional this morning in my e-mail was from James, a different direction in James but there any way. I decided to just begin reading this book and was stopped in my tracks after the first 15 verses.
"Consider it a great JOY, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces ENDURANCE. But endurance MUST do its COMPLETE work, so that you may be mature and complete lacking nothing..A man who ENDURES trials is BLESSED, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him."James 1:2, 12
"You are BLESSED when they insult and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in Heaven." Matthew 5:11
My attitude in this situation has been one of anger, frustration, hurt, and more. I can say that I have honestly tried to pray for the author, I have prayed to have an attitude of forgiveness for a person that I can't even really go to in person, and yet I have still struggled with this entire situation.
We have encountered a lot of hard times in ministry but this one has definitely been hard. It came to a head a few weeks ago when a card was mailed and addressed to one of my children. From the outside, it looked just like any other greeting card with the exception that a return address was suspiciously missing. Thankfully, I checked the mail that day instead of Tyler, he would have handed it straight to the person it was addressed any normal person would. Yet, I had a check in my spirit that something wasn't right....I opened it to see and I am SO thankful that the Spirit gave me that prompting. It doesn't matter how old your children are, your mama bear instinct is to protect them from hurtful words, etc. I read the letter and my child never has! It was after this letter that I knew SOMETHING had to be done, it had to be dealt with.
I had honestly thought that with the announcement of our resignation these letters would stop, it would just go away. It hasn't, they didn't. Today it hit me WHY...because I needed to re-examine MY attitude towards them...I needed to see them as a BLESSING, as a growth opportunity, as a way in which I can learn ENDURANCE! Don't get me wrong, I am not sure the letters will stop...or they may...that isn't the point. The point is that I PASS THE TEST that God has allowed to come my way!
So...why be open and share about this? Why a blog post?
1.) Our journey of faith, our lives, are to be used to encourage and spur one another on. I felt so alone in this situation until I began talking with other ministers and their wives about it and realized that THEY TOO have had it happen. So, if someone reading this is experiencing a similar situation...I want them to know they are NOT alone! They have someone who gets it, who understands.
2.) I want to be open and real and transparent in what the Lord is teaching me and showing me.
3.) It is time that the person responsible for these letters know that they are HELPING me in my journey of faith because I am learning more and more about how to deal with "ugly" people in life because of THANK YOU for teaching me to bless, to endure, and to let go.
4.) We are also called to confront and call out sin within the body of Christ. Although this HAS been a learning and growth opportunity for me...I believe that 3 years of public silence in regards to it is ENOUGH! It is time that we call it out. We are not called to judge but we ARE called to confront one another's sin. Due to the fact that this is an anonymous person, I can't go to them one on one or even with a small here it is. I can say I forgive you, I can say I love you, and I can ALSO say you are sinning and wrong and it needs to stop for the sake of the body of Christ.
5.) If you have a problem or concern with a fellow need to go to them one on one in LOVE and for the purpose of building them up and encouraging them...not to hurt them or destroy them or tear them down.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Our Church Planting Back Story....

Well, like I said in my last post - God is on the move and so are we. We are beginning the full on process of moving our family to Delta, Colorado. I also mentioned that I would share more of our journey to this place of joining with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and Colorado Baptist Convention to begin a church plant.

In 2009 while in Bayfield, Co. we met some amazing friends - the Vaughn family. That in and of itself is a testimony to an answered prayer for a friend that I have actually blogged about before but it was a beautiful answer! Anyway - moving on....James Vaughn who is the father/father-in-law of our sweet friends works with NAMB and the Colorado Baptist Convention as a Church Plant Catalyst (basically he finds, trains and supports church planters). This was our first real introduction to the church planting process or idea. Prior to this, we had only briefly heard of church planting but never knew much about it.

As our friendship with the Vaughns grew, so did our desire to somehow be involved in church planting. We prayed for church planters. We became friends with a few couples that were planting churches. We read articles and updates from church planters. We were intrigued and inquisitive about it but never really thought it would be US that would church plant.

Fast forward to about 3 and half years ago. God began to stir in MY heart that maybe, just maybe we should consider being church planters. At this time, we were in Borger serving in a very troubled situation, Joel and our Senior Pastor were the only two pastors left of seven on staff, our Senior Pastor was preparing to leave as well and yet Joel and I had no idea where or what we should do. Little did I know, that Joel had put out some feelers and had even filled out a church planting questionnaire with NAMB...he was turned down at that time. I would mention it in passing to Joel - okay, to be honest I would mention it out of frustration with our current situation - and he would just laugh it off. Then, God opened the door for our current church, we felt that this was where God was leading - and He was - so I didn't think much about it for another 2 and half years.

In October of this past year, my sweet friend Dani Vaughn, who had since moved to Delta from Bayfield, called and asked me to pray with her for a church home. She and her husband were struggling to find a church where they "fit" and so I did. A few weeks later, totally in jest (I should know God tends to do that with our conversations because that is how I went to Zim!) she said "Hey, you and Joel should just come start a church here!" I laughed it off. Delta was on the list for the need of a church plant but surely God wouldn't call US there - we were committed to Levelland at least until Kestra graduated from High School! Anyway - in passing, again, I mentioned it to Joel. He said "Let's just see what God does with it. I will call James and just see what we need to do."

That call has led us to where we are at now....we have undergone an extensive application, interview, approval process with both NAMB and the Colorado Baptist Convention. We are OFFICIALLY approved, have a start date (referred to them as a mobilization date) and beginning the process of preparing to move. I never would have dreamed that we would be church planters, I never would have dreamed that God would call us to serve in the same town where our closest friends lived, and I never would have dreamed that I would return to Colorado - when we left in 2011 I remember looking with tears in my eyes at Joel and saying "I don't think we will ever be coming back to live." Yet - our GREAT BIG GOD loves us, and I truly believe that when we lay it down and say we are willing to follow Him, serve Him, and go when He says go....He DOES give us the desires of our heart.

The road ahead, is uncertain. There are a lot of unknowns. Our family all has very mixed feelings about moving - excited and sad. We are 6 weeks away, have no house lined up, no jobs lined up, and several other details to tie up...yet, God is IN THIS and all 6 of us know that He will work it all out in His time.

So...what now? What can YOU do to be involved and join God where He is moving?

1.) Pray for us and our family as we continue the moving process. The goodbyes, the finishing ministry here, the packing, etc.

2.) Pray for jobs for Joel and I in Delta. We will both need to work part time and/or full time. Pray for jobs that are conducive to ministry life.

3.) Pray for a house that is affordable, large enough for our family, and large enough to host Bible Studies and church in to begin with.

4.) Be on the look out about how you can be involved through financial giving, supplies we will need for ministry, and even mission opportunities to come and serve in Delta.